I’d been creating a workshop for Anova, an organization in London, ON, providing safe places, shelter, support, counselling and resources for abused women, their children, and all oppressed individuals, to find a new start. Knowing this organization has gone through significant change in the past few years as they merged the Women’s Shelter and the Sexual Assault Centre to create Anova, and that those who work and volunteer here live right at the edge of emotional exhaustion, I was keenly aware of the task laid out before me. I wanted to lead them through a process to not only develop their Strategic Plan, but to help unify the team, and give them a renewed energy and enthusiasm with which to return to work.
As I was leaving the house, heading to the airport for my flight and feeling comfortable with the work I’d prepared, I received a text from my sister, Margaret, who had received a text from our sister Shelley, telling her that Mom had fallen, broken her hip and was awaiting surgery.
To say I was stunned would be an understatement. Yes, my stepmother is 87 years old. Yes, broken hips are common in seniors. But Mom is in great health, walks regularly, lives independently and for the most part takes very good care of herself. So even though the statistics should have warned me, the reality was tough to absorb.
Mom’s fall was bad. To put it in perspective, the average surgical time to repair a broken hip is between 1 ½ - 2 hours. Mom’s surgery, which took place about thirty-six hours after her fall, took five hours. Her hip had multiple fractures and was badly splintered.
As I walked through the airport toward the departure gate, thinking about Mom, I heard someone behind me, clearly in distress, yelling out, ‘Oh, oh, oh….!!!’ I turned just in time to see a man, roughly my age, hit the floor. The crutches that were meant to take pressure off his injured leg (my best diagnosis based on his hip-to-ankle brace was that he had injured his knee), had slipped on the floor and he had lost his balance. What I had heard was his failed attempt to regain his balance as he found himself falling.
As I turned back toward him, I quickly saw my help wasn’t needed. He was immediately surrounded by a group of men who had been walking behind him. About ten minutes later, I noticed two of the young men gently accompany him to our boarding area, reassuring him and helping him get settled.
Whoa! Two falls in such a short time? I assumed there was some learning here for me.
As I flew, caught my second flight, arrived, got settled and began my work with Anova, the notion of falling was rattling around in my head. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, and advertising for it in every shop, the expression, ‘Falling in Love’ kept niggling at me.
Each of us falls. In a lifetime, most of us will have too many falls to keep track of. Hopefully, only a very few will be the literal kind, the kind like Mom’s and like ‘Airport Man’s’. Most will be the other kind; the kind where we make a mistake, where we trip up on our planning, where we disappoint ourselves or others, where we fall from grace or where we fall apart. There is no path through this world without falls.
The luckiest among us will fall in love. Not in the romantic sense. Rather in the way I observed falling this week.
Mom fell in love. She has a family who surrounded her and who will help her navigate her new way forward. The floor where she landed was not soft. But the landing was softened because of the container of love that caught her.
‘Airport Man’ hit a very hard surface. But he was lucky enough to have been ‘caught’ by young men who understand the value of showing kindness, concern, help and yes, even love. I noticed them again as we landed in Toronto, making sure he was safely delivered to who I assume was his wife. Airport Man too, fell in love.
The women served by Anova have also experienced falls. Some of these are falls of the kind I cannot even imagine. When they step through the door of this organization, they too fall in love. At first, they fall into the love of complete strangers. Later it becomes the love of trusted allies and friends.
When Jim and I met, we fell in love. I thought I understood it then. It was magical and had that sense of perfect bliss. Now, decades later, we have over and over and over again, each fallen in love. While I never imagined it could feel better than the original love, I was wrong.
To understand that I can mis-step, feel insecure, make mistakes, chase dreams, have my body fail me; that I am safe to fall, knowing that I am falling in love, gives me the chance to grow, experiment, take risks, widen my circle, and to fully become myself.
My wish for you this Valentine’s Day is not that you fall. But that if you happen to slip or fall in your actions, words or deeds, that there is a soft place to land; that you fall in love.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘Who needs to fall in my love?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to create spaces where it is safe to fall.